Top Shelf Month enters its second week with a "real" book.
I was a little bit surprised when I cracked open this little hardcover that it was not a graphic novel at all, but a book with illustrations added to spruce up each chapter. Along with a biting portrait of each vice president, from John Adams to Dick Cheney, is an occasional scene portraying a specific life event, but the majority of this book is words. It sort of reminded me of the Secret Lives series from Quirk Books, which I have enjoyed very much. Each entry has a short summary of each person's life followed by separate entries about notable accomplishments, dubious doings, calamitous events, and/or an interesting quotation. In all it was a very entertaining and informative read. After reading this book I can tell you:
- There have been 16 times, due to deaths and other circumstances, when no one held the VP position and those instances total 37 years(!)
- Our 5th VP, Elbridge Gerry, inspired the term gerrymandering
- William Rufus DeVane King may have been romantically involved with the sole bachelor US president James Buchanan
- Theodore Roosevelt was selected to be VP in order to curb his political do-gooding
- Dick Cheney appeared in the movie Die Hard with a Vengeance
- Charles Curtis was the last VP or president to sport facial hair
- James Schoolcraft Sherman is the only VP whose bust in the US Senate wears glasses
- The nickname "Veep" was coined by Alben W. Barkley's grandson
- James Madison had two of his VPs die while he was in office
It was difficult for me to find much information about this book's creators. Writer Bill Kelter is a businessman and contributes to sites like Politico. Artist Wayne Shellabarger does not have a lot of comics credits, but he is known for having drawn an array of rock posters in the past. The duo speak more about their collaboration on this book in this interview.
All the reviews I have seen online about this book have been glowing. Curt Holman called the book "playful" and added that its worth comes in how well it "illuminates the flaws and foibles in a political system that manages to elevate unworthy candidates while letting talent go to waste." Anthony Bergen gushed, "Veeps is a great read. I loved it, and couldn’t put it down until it was finished. It’s also a great-looking book, with fantastic art and a sweet design." Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow wrote that the book was "a snarky, thorough look at the foibles and missteps of the vice presidency," and added, "I had no idea how completely comic the office has been through the years."
There is a lot of information about this book, including a movie version, at its official site. Here is a preview and much more from the publisher.